ROSE ISLAND LIGHT
Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation maintains a few rooms in the lighthouse, along with one room in the barracks, and one in the old foghorn building, for overnight stays.
Rose Island Lighthouse proudly lights tiny eighteen-acre Rose Island in Narragansett Bay just off the shore of Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island. The lighthouse is nestled against a wildlife refuge where you'll find many species of seabirds. The lighthouse was built in 1870. Rose Island was already home to Fort Hamilton, whose construction began during the last decade of the 18th century, but was never fully finished and only used through World War II. The abandoned fort, now known as Fort Hamilton Historic District, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. The lighthouse was deactivated in the early 1970's, when the construction of the Newport Bridge deemed the light unnecessary since the bridge itself aids navigation. Then in 1984, on behalf of the city of Newport, citizens formed the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation, gained access to the light, and began restoring it. The beacon was relit in 1993. A sixth-order Fresnel lens was installed in 2013. The lighthouse currently stands as it did in the early 1900's, and has been added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Today, the lighthouse and the long stone barracks from the fortification era remain as the only fully-standing structures on the island. Both are maintained by the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation and open to the public between Memorial Day and Labor Day from 10-4 pm daily, via the Jamestown-Newport Ferry. During these hours, the lighthouse and Keeper’s quarters are open as a historic museum. Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation also maintains a few rooms in the lighthouse, along with one room in the barracks, and one in the old foghorn building, for overnight stays. The Keeper’s apartment is also available by the week, but only for guests willing to help maintain the property during their stay. Charles S. Curtis was the keeper of Rose Island Light for over 30 years around the turn of the 19th century. Curtis had a grandson named Wanton Chase, who spent his early years living on the island with his grandfather. Wanton Chase held onto many memories and artifacts from his island and light keeper life, and luckily the foundation has been able to preserve many photographs and stories from him. Many of his belongings are on display in the lighthouse museum.
The lighthouse has been impeccably restored with many historically accurate details and runs off solar-powered electricity and a rainwater harvesting system. Guests have access to outdoor grills, a fire pit, rocky beaches, kayaks, and of course, the top of the light. Egrets, herons, ibises and many, many gulls nest on Rose Island, so much of the island is protected and off-limits to guests during the summer months, but by kayak you can get a good view of the fort ruins and birds on the far-side of the island.
We booked the barracks room in the beginning of August. The barracks are set away from the lighthouse a bit, and the room has its own patio, grill and picnic table. The three-foot thick brick walls are great for keeping the room cool on a very warm summer night and the restoration details inside are amazing.
Chris, the island property manager, picked us up at Fort Adams in the Starfish and ferried us out to the island. The night’s stay began with a tour of the island and plenty of time to access the 35-foot octagonal tower and its light. The top of the tower gives outstanding views of Narragansett Bay. The island is quiet and relaxing. Bring your own provisions, eat dinner on the beach, make a fire, kayak in the early-morning calm water- it’s all simple and perfect.
The lawn and beach both give excellent views of the Newport Bridge, and sunset and sunrise. We watched the sunset out on the beach, watched the meteor shower from the lawn, and in the morning, watched the sunrise from the dock.
After leaving Rose Island the next morning, we stopped at a few more lighthouses in Narragansett Bay- Castle Hill Lighthouse in Newport, and Beavertail Light in Jamestown, Rhode Island. Save the Bay provides lighthouse cruises of Narragansett Bay where you can view up to twenty lighthouses with at least one stop at an active lighthouse. Save the Bay continuously works to improve water quality in the bay and provides many opportunities to learn more about protecting our waterways. Venturing to these lighthouses with them is a great way to support an amazing organization. You can become a member of the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation here.